How Pillows Can Affect Back Pain

Back Pain

Many people experience back pain at some point in their lifetime, and some people even have the misfortune of experiencing chronic back pain that troubles them long-term. And while some lifestyle factors such as exercise (or lack thereof), stress, and a lack of proper posture when sitting or standing are well-known contributors to frequent neck and back pains, very few people realize that even the pillow they sleep with at night in their bedroom can have a significant impact on the health of their spine and back muscles.

This is because the pillow you use greatly affects the alignment of your spine while you sleep, particularly in regards to your neck, shoulders, and upper back. While this might seem silly at first (after all, how much difference can a pillow really make?), it’s important to remember that your head is quite heavy due to the combined weight of your skull and brain matter. During the day when you’re awake and on the move, all of that weight is borne by your neck, shoulders, and upper back. But when you’re asleep, your body is relying on your pillow to support your head and neck and keep them in alignment with the rest of your spine; if your pillow doesn’t do that, it can result in a serious strain on the rest of your body, most notably your neck, shoulders, and back.

That being said, people with different sleep positions (on their side, on their back, or on their stomach) are going to need different types of pillows if they want to prevent frequent back pains (because of the different ways their spines line up at night when they sleep).

For Back Sleepers

In general, sleeping on your back is good for helping to prevent back pain because the position keeps your spine properly aligned throughout the night. That being said, you’re still going to need the right pillow; if the pillow you’re using lifts your head up too much it will put your neck out of spinal alignment, and the same thing goes for a pillow that’s too low and flat. Therefore, if you sleep on your back, you’re going to want a pillow that’s medium-firm and keeps your head and neck in alignment with your shoulders and spine while you sleep.

For Side Sleepers

Sleeping on your side is one of the most common sleeping positions, and can also help keep your spine in alignment – but only if you’re in the right position. In order for side-sleeping to be beneficial rather than harmful, your head must be kept at the proper angle so it stays in alignment; therefore, you will probably need a pillow that is thicker and a little bit firmer. Too soft of a pillow can leave your head drooping down at an unnatural angle that will cause strain and tension in your neck, shoulders which will eventually result in serious back pains. Many side-sleepers who want to maintain proper posture while sleeping utilize latex pillows because of their firmness and how they can provide great support for your head, neck, and shoulders.

For Stomach Sleepers

People who sleep on their stomachs can often face some difficulty when it comes to finding the right pillow for their needs. Too thick and your head and neck will be forced backwards at an uncomfortable angle while you rest which in turn can lead to back pain and discomfort, but too thin and you might not feel comfortable enough to fall asleep in the first place. In general, you should try to find a pillow that is thin but firm; this ensures that you get the right amount of support for your head and neck while still maintaining good spinal alignment and posture.


As you can see, pillows can actually have quite an impact on how well you sleep and whether or not you experience frequent back pains as a result of proper posture and spinal alignment when resting. We hope that you’ve found this article helpful and informative for helping to prevent back pain of your own.